Safe Trade Stations, an AIM Group initiative to promote security in person-to-person trades, has notched its biggest win. The New York City Police Department, the largest in the U.S., announced this week that it would open 98 “e-commerce exchange zones” at police precincts across the city’s five boroughs.

They will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no appointment needed. The city already offered a few safe trade zones in Manhattan and the Bronx; this is a significant expansion of the program, and will be rolled out fully by mid-December.

Safe Trade Stations and equivalents are now offered at thousands of police and law enforcement offices in the United States, Canada and Australia. The AIM Group developed the program in 2015 after a police officer in Milwaukee, Wis., suggested that people making trades that originated online do so at police precincts.

The NYPD said each location would be secure, well-lit and monitored. The NYPD is the largest municipal police department in the U.S., with about 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian employees.

“Everything is monitored and recorded for transactions across the city,” said Capt. Spiro Papavlasopoulos, commander of the department’s crime prevention division. He said everyone has to be careful to avoid rip-offs in e-commerce trades.

“This could happen to anyone. It could happen to visitors. It could happen to even law enforcement. However, we are trying to provide a safe location for everyone that’s even visiting the city that wants to conduct these transactions. …

“There’s some key indicators that should be people that should be aware of if a person does not want to meet at a precinct. Then that should be an indicator on why,” Papavlasopoulos told Fox5 News.

The NYPD launched the initiative just before “Black Friday,” the unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season in the U.S.

“You know, you want to sell your item, you want to pick something, you want to buy it. You’re like, oh, let me run out there and get it,” said Mark Stewart, deputy commissioner of the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau.

“But you know what? You got to think safety first.”

The AIM Group launched Safe Trade Stations in response to thousands of robberies, killings and other crimes linked to transactions initiated on Craigslist and other sites. Transactions nowadays originate on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, Craigslist and other e-commerce and social media sites. The program grew slowly with support from the AIM Group; it’s now spread to hundreds of police and sheriff’s departments internationally and in the U.S., including in Norfolk, Va.; North Pole, Alaska; Atlanta, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and Vancouver and Winnipeg in Canada.

SafeTrade is open to all police departments and law enforcement organizations, with no charge, trademark, or fees. The AIM Group receives no money or other compensation for SafeTrade. OfferUp, a general marketplace in the U.S., offers a parallel program, SafeTradeSpots, developed in conjunction with the AIM Group.

The AIM Group works with hundreds of classified advertising and marketplace companies around the world, and has made SafeTrade available to them as well — clients or not.

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